Jordan can be pretty dry. (Image via Letstravelsomewhere.com)
As an arid, resource poor nation, Jordan has historically relied on foreign countries to provide basic energy needs, along with other resources.
As recently as 2012, Jordan still imported nearly 97 percent of its energy, most of it coming from fossil fuels.
The combination of climate change and an increasing population threatens to further hinder Jordan’s ability to provide its citizens with basic energy needs without increasing dependence on foreign sources - along with the corresponding rise in costs of importing energy.
But the solution to this dilemma could be hiding in plain sight.
“Jordan is one of the richest countries of green energy resources; and we can use the green technologies to solve the energy challenges,” said Mustafa Almomani, chairman of IEEE Jordan Young Professionals, at a recent event in the capital.
Just because Jordan lacks ‘traditional’ energy resources doesn’t mean it doesn’t have alternatives. In fact it does.
Green technology, or cleantech, includes innovations such as solar panels, solar heaters, wind turbines, water collection devices, and water purifiers, and creates cheap and sustainable energy sources intended to mitigate the effect of human activity on the environment.
Using these technologies, entrepreneurs from all over the world have tapped alternative energy sources while simultaneously creating sustainable businesses. That too can happen - and is happening - in Jordan.
With over 300 days of sun annually, Jordan is one of the sunniest places on earth, meaning that solar energy could be considered a national resource.
But Jordan is still in the process of capitalizing on this opportunity. The nation already uses photovoltaic systems (solar panels) in rural and remote villages, where they’re used for lighting, water pumping and other services. Additionally, about 15 percent of all households are equipped with solar water heating systems.
As per Jordan’s Energy Master Plan, 30 percent of all households are expected to be equipped with solar water heating system by the year 2020.
But Jordan’s green tech promise goes beyond potentially being a solar power powerhouse.
While there’s still plenty of room for innovation in solar energy, other clean energy solutions exists in wind power and in water collection, purification, and sanitation.
Climate change and opportunity in Jordan
In line with this move towards making the most of green options, the first Jordan Innovation MeetUP, held March 3, began with a viewing of ‘The History of Climate Change Negotiations in 83 Seconds’, a Youtube video outlining the global community’s bickering and finger pointing regarding the causes of climate change.
But the roughly 85 attendees at the event didn’t gather at Zain’s Innovation Campus to argue about climate change, but rather to discuss it as an opportunity for innovation, particularly in the area of energy.
Attendees at the first Jordan InnovationMeetUP. (Image via Samuel Wendel)
Hosted by IEEE Young Professionals Jordan, the local chapter of the global professional association the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the event featured presentations from a conservation specialist and business experts and was intended to give participants a blueprint for turning their creative ideas into a business in the clean energy and green technology sectors.
“Climate change is one of the biggest threats that face this generation and this generation’s children and we are on a mission to excite the youths about this issue to be part of the solution,” said Almomani.
It kicked off with a sobering overview of climate change’s impact in the region and was led by Safa' Al Jayoussi, founder and executive director for IndyACT in Jordan, a Lebanese NGO focused on conservation and climate change policy.
Al Jayoussi’s presentation also introduced spectators to ways they can capitalize on the threat of climate change and mitigate its effects in Jordan.
Innovating green tech in Jordan
Having provided attendees with a look at the opportunity renewable energy offers, the Innovation MeetUP then pivoted to the process of starting and scaling a business.
Attendees listened as Fouad Jeryes related his experience of founding and establishing his ecommerce startup Cash Basha, and then they later heard Suleiman Arabiat, a project management from startup accelerator Oasis500, describe capital formation and mentorship.
By connecting renewable energy with business basics, Almomani hopes attendees will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of local entrepreneurs already pursuing innovation in green technology.
Some of Taqetna's solar panels at work in Saudi Arabia. (Image via Taqetna)
Several local startups are already pursuing clean energy’s potential, such as Taqetna, which has developed products like a wind turbine called "Reyah" that’s designed to work efficiently at low wind speeds.
“Taqetna is the first company in the Middle East region that provides a world class wind turbine,” said Almomani. “This kind of story is exactly what we need to present to the engineering community in Jordan.”
Another Jordanian clean energy startup is Solar PiezoClean, which has developed a device that cleans dust off of solar panels. A side effect of living in one of the sunniest and driest regions of the world also means that it’s dusty, and the buildup of dust on solar panels cuts the amount of energy it can soak up.
A greener future
IEEE now is hoping there will be even more startups exploring renewable energy.
Oasis500 is also banking on green tech’s potential. The incubator announced at the event that it plans on holding themed startup bootcamps in the near future, like “ICT and clean technologies” and “ICT and Urban Solutions”.
IEEE Jordan plans on holding future Innovation MeetUPs, according to Almomani, albeit with different themes. But the first entry in the series represented a rare opportunity to discuss climate change and renewable energy.
Anas Daradkeh, a student studying water management systems at the University of Jordan, says he attended because the event represented an uncommon chance to network with people interested in climate change.
“I’m looking forward to talking to people from any environmental sector because I want to find a topic for my PhD,” said Daradkeh, adding that he found Al Jayoussi’s presentation particularly insightful.
And in that regard, IEEE accomplished its mission.
“We hope to inspire the participants to start thinking of a philosophy that moves from ‘business as usual’ energy use to green energy that achieves climate justice and expands economic opportunities for the developing countries,” said Almomani.